Monday, September 25, 2006

60 More Taleban Killed In Afghanistan Push

Security forces in Afghanistan said they had killed more than 60 Taleban in new clashes, as a British minister played down suggestions the nation’s troops deployed here are over-stretched. The rebels were killed in separate incidents in southern Helmand province, where the bulk of a British deployment of about 4,500 troops is based and has come under fierce attack to mounting concern at home. On Saturday, NATO-led and Afghan security forces backed by war planes killed 40 of the rebels in the province’s Greshk district, the Afghan defence ministry said. A rebel stronghold was also “totally” destroyed in the raid in which Afghan and foreign troops sustained no casualties, it added.Security forces meanwhile captured 21 suspected Taleban combatants across insurgency-hit southern and eastern Afghanistan, the ministry said in a separate statement. NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) announced that it had killed 15 insurgents in the province’s Now Zad district on Friday after the troops called in air support when they came under fire from about 20 men. Eight more insurgents were killed on Thursday in neighbouring Sangin district after they attacked a helicopter with rocket-propelled grenades as the aircraft was lifting off, another ISAF statement said. Helmand, Afghanistan’s top drug-producing province, has seen an escalation of violence this year as ISAF troops have moved into remote areas and confronted rebels and drug lords who have operated for years outside the law. British commanders have called for more troops and equipment to deal with the stronger-than-expected resistance. British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett said Sunday the troops were “stretched but not over-stretched”. Her comments came after an army major criticised the Royal Air Force as “utterly, utterly useless” in Afghanistan and called for more equipment in leaked e-mails.